Australia secure Ashes retention as weather thwarts England

Australia secure Ashes retention as weather thwarts England

Australia 317 (Labuschagne 51, Marsh 51, Woakes 5-62) and 214 for 5 (Labuschagne 111) tied with England 592 (Crawley 189, Bairstow 99*, Root 84, Brook 61, Moeen 54, Stokes 51, Hazlewood 5-126)

Australia have retained the Ashes after escaping an England-dominated fourth Test with a rain-ruined draw. They will leave Manchester on Monday morning with a 2-1 lead and have a chance to claim their first series win in England since 2001 at The Oval next week.

After just 30 overs of play between showers were possible on Saturday, Australia trailed by 61 runs in their second innings with five wickets remaining heading into day five at Emirates Old Trafford. But persistent downpours caused Sunday’s play to be abandoned without a ball being bowled, with the toss finally being confirmed at 5:24 p.m.

Heavy rain overnight delayed the start of the fifth day, and planned inspections were later delayed by persistent rain that washed over the ground. A start time for 1:00 p.m. was announced during an early lunch break, but the rain returned almost immediately, then continued for the rest of the afternoon.

The England players kicked a football around the outfield, as if to indicate they were ready to play, but eventually returned to the dressing room after getting drenched. The rain only grew heavier, with a substantial volume of standing water on the decks and puddles forming in the gardens.

By the time the referees decided to call it a day, the vast majority of the sold-out crowd had gone home, with the Party Stand completely deserted. Pat Cummins shook hands with Joel Wilson and Nitin Menon, before telling his teammates they could celebrate keeping the ballot box.

Ben Stokes spoke in the build-up to the Test about the possibility of the weather forecast forcing England to “push the game even more” than usual and there was not much more they could have done. They scored 5.49 runs for over in their only innings and took 15 wickets at 161.2 more in the field.

But rain, and slow surcharges from both teams, limited the Test match to 269 overs, which proved insufficient for a result on both sides. This was England’s first draw in the 17 games they have played since Stokes’s appointment as captain last year, after winning 12 and losing four.

For Australia, the result means they cannot lose the series despite being on the back foot in the last two Tests. Four years ago, they left Manchester 2-1 up but lost at The Oval, missing out on a chance to win outright; they will be desperate to make amends next week.